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tv   QA  CSPAN  December 5, 2016 6:01am-7:01am EST

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book "american ulysses: the life of ulysses s. grant." brian: ronald c. white, author of "american ulysses: a life of ulysses s. grant," what is the story you open your book to? ronald: at i read it? brian: it yes.
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brian: the war started in 1861. ronald: yes. your: did i read it in
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book that does the first time that grant had ever met lincoln? ronald: this was the first time he had ever met him. grant was out in the west. so he had never met grant before. brian: that particular date would have been where in t civil war history? ronald: the troops were in their winter quarters but he brought to grant for the spring campaign. that was started in may. the overland campaign where greg would march into virginia remembering that four times before, then why ms. had marched into virginia and four times before, they had retreated humiliating retreats. brian: how did you put that particular story together?
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>> i think it says so much about who grant is, the lack of pomposity, the self of basis that he was -- it was part of who he was. the only designation would be the stars. by contrast, i think today's leaders, it says so much about who this man is and why america did not simply admire him. they really loved him. brian: winded ud side after your three books about lincoln to do the ulysses s grant book? ronald: we knew that the commemoration of the civil war was coming so it seemed appropriate. i have to confess to myself after about a year and a half of working on this that even though grant was obviously an important figure in my lincoln biography, i never really knew about him. i only knew what he did. i did not know who he was. part of my purpose when i write a biography is to know not just
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what they did, but who they are. and i think that is what the american people want to know. he was born in 1822. ronald: that is correct, point pleasant, ohio. they had migrated west. he is often looked it as his great individual hero. he saw himself as part of a family story. he looked back through the prism of the eight generation of grants. they gradually migrated west. they settled finally it in georgetown. he was a tanner. brian: if he was here, what would he look like. not tall, about five
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foot seven inches. isis is -- this an 1864 photograph that they have colorized. you can see his blue eyes. i think you can see through his eyes into his own. when he walked into the white house, nobody knew he was. i told the story of abraham lincoln looking over the crowd saying " it is a pleasure to meet you." there are complete opposites. ulysses s. grant was not a great of a speaker. he feared it. abraham lincoln was a great public speaker. he grew up 55 miles east of cincinnati. his father, told him that he wanted him to go to west point. it says something about the relationship of parents and children. he did not really want to go. but he said to his father, if .ou think i should, i will
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his father's west point as a free education and one of only two military schools. many want to west point and did not serve afterwards. they ended up being engineers for railroad and much more lucrative jobs. five feet one inches tall. he barely made the cut. he was there until he graduated in 1843. he was at the largest posting. jefferson barracks. people are heading west to protect the settlers. there he met his roommates sister. julia. they formed a marvelous marriage. brian: when did he get married? how old was he? ronald: they didn't get married right away because her father
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did not want his daughter to marry some vagabond soldier. he would have rather did a businessperson. so grant went to mexico. he was a young man. he was assigned duties of quartermaster. he did not want that, he wanted to be in the fight. he was on some occasions. he came back in 1848 to marry her. brian: what was it that drew the two of them together? he was taken by, not her beauty. she was appointed with cross eyes. he was drawn to her, she was much more vocal than he was. she was four years younger. they both loved horses and would ride together. they found this incredible match. interesting story, if i may. a person approached me about four years ago. a friend of mine, a director and
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writer. he said, let's talk about doing a television miniseries. what you tell me that is most remarkable about him? i said let me start by telling you about julia. look at their marriage. he shook his said and said, that will never do for television. a wonderful marriage. he said there has to be internal tension. when i thought about it, there is internal tension. his family was totally anti-slavery republican. her family was strongly proslavery. her father owned 30 slaves. his family refused to come to the wedding. her father gave her poor slaves which she called servants. i think these young people really did not understand the dynamic of the family's they were marrying into. brian: how many children do they have?
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ronald: they had four boys and a single girl. they were all quite successful. on a trip abroad, they met a young englishman was not a good apple. she divorced him. came back to the united states, she had been living in england and then lived with her family and then her mother after her father died. brian: what about the boys? ronald: yes, the youngest boy fred became what a remarkable person. buck, the youngest one, it ulysses junior served as a cabinet officer. the two younger was moved to san diego and established the u. s. grant hotel. brian: where else did they live other than st. louis and ohio? ronald: thank you for asking that. i think it is so important to when doing a biography visit where a person lives. he was posted after the war with mexico in michigan and new york.
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in 1852, he was sent to the pacific coast. he could not take julia because she was pregnant. he was in humble, california near eureka. missing julia, terribly missing her, he fell into despair and was drinking. he was threatened with court-martial. the day he received in captain, heim to be wrote back to the secretary of war who was jefferson davis and offered his resignation. he returned to julia. the next seven years were very difficult for him. alt.lways his i don't want to say he failed. circumstances did not go well for him. they moved to northwest illinois.
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they moved there and it was a humiliating situation. his father said that you can have a place. you will serve underneath your younger brother. when he arrived without fully understanding if you was the only west point graduate and the town, he arrived in the spring of 1860. go to westdid he point with that far eventually on the confederate side? up for the men who stood him at his wedding all served on the confederate side. james longmous was street. he was his dear friend. when grant arrived, his name was higher than ulysses. >> he said unless you are u.s. grant, you will be the wrong
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one. grant and heu.s. was known as sam grant at west point. brian: what happened during the civil war when he had these who were on the other side? ronald: he respected them. long street told the general lee that he did not think he knew who he was going to be up against when he bought ulysses s. grant. this was a very difficult time. these men all both on the same side of mexico. in the war with mexico. brian: let me show you an excerpt.
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we've had a series of these books over the last years. [video clip] >> this is an excerpt from the bunch that we have found in our archive. >> there is no victory for the law of the union. >> i do contend that grant saved the union during reconstruction as well. stature and reputation towered above all of others, his name forever linked with the martyred lincoln. >> in his lifetime, for decades after his death, he was regarded as the greatest american hero of the 19th century. clip] deo
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brian: anything you disagree with? ronald: no but i think there is much more to tell. brian: why do you think that? ronald: the reason that grant said that he does not read biographies is because they do not tell the story of the boy who becomes the man. my dear friend joan law would say that her book is not a biography. it is a wonderful book on how we understand grant in memory. i decided to spend more time on the young grant. i spent a week at west point. trying to understand how this man could finish 21st out of 39 at west point and sometimes food -- was viewed as a historical intellectual lightweight. and yet, he said himself that i must apologize, i spent all my time reading novels. also, i'm the first person that has had the privilege of looking at all 33 volumes of the grant papers.
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the last full you will not be published until 2017. -- the last volume will not be published until 2017. so, i don't think we have had the complete story because we never had the complete record of grant. brian: why were you able to read the 33 volumes? ronald: they have been in the works since 1962. i also believe this. without any comment about this particular stories that we have. we have a modern phenomenon. we think we can write about historical figures by sitting in our office and doing it online. i really believe that we have to go to these places where grant lived. the battlefields where he bought. even the grant papers which were at southern university and are now at at mississippi state university, that is quite a story. there is so much more at mississippi state university
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the and there is a net 33 volumes. i have made many trips to the grant papers to try to understand and a deeper way who this man was. brian: we have some video of a man who was very helpful to us when we were covering the original ones. he was at southern illinois university. you tip your hat to him in your book. did you know him? ronald: no, i never had the privilege of knowing him. i say this to his widow harriet. pay great tribute to him. i attended a meeting of the civil war centennial commission. newman and other friend from a stock four days asked if i would to hit the papers of ulysses s. grant. it seemed like a good idea at the time. especially because i did not know that the directors had borrowed money from the bank to fund that enterprise. it was the springfield marine bank.
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no other bank would have been so foolish. [laughter] >> the the us casually beginning a commitment that would last the remainder of my life. little idea of the extent of his correspondence. especially after grant wrote as little as possible. brian: having known the man, i should say that he was very funny. and to some of the things he was his kind of humor.
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what do you think? ronald: i had never seen that tape before. and 1930's, there was an american president series produced. they wrote the biography of grant in 1935. that is exactly what he said. there was no collection of grant papers anywhere. he wrote that before the collection of the grant papers. he has no understanding whatsoever. the question, why did he fall, he began to fall earlier. even in the first third of the 20th century, nobody had any idea of grant. his point -- i apologize because i read novels, he did not just write his novels. he had an imagination.
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brian: he talked about how tremendously popular he was in the 19th century. what do you think would happen if you took a survey of the american people today? ronald: let me pause for a moment if i may. i make that assertion because of the year 1900. the first year of the 20th century. theodore roosevelt said, of the mighty dead loom three great american figures. george washington, abraham lincoln, and ulysses s. grant. wereid the second rank benjamin franklin, thomas jefferson, alexander hamilton, and andrew jackson. that is how he understood it. the idea that was first propagated by generals that the better side lost.
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they were the better side, the christian side, the chivalrous side. all of these values. and they only lost because they were overwhelmed by greater numerical numbers and a greater industrial mind. and that butcher ulysses s. grant who was willing to sacrifice his men. but history has shown us the casualties under grant were actually less than those under lee. about the jim crow laws, the story that i want to tell, that ulysses s. grant defended the right of african-americans, that was not a story anybody wanted to hear. when we get to the 1920's and wholeole liver -- the abolitionist story is told grant, but hes s.
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deserves to be part of that story. to answer your question, he fell all the way down to 32 or something in recent years. it has begun to rise. he has probably risen 10 or 12 places. i think he deserves a much higher ranking in terms of american leaders. brian: how much total time that he's been in the military? 1843-1854. he reentered in 1861. he continued to be general-in-chief quite remarkably during reconstruction. even while he was running for president. he was both general and chief and the candidate of the republican party. he retired from the military. his inauguration was march of 1869. brian: what did he do to continue to be in the public spotlight between lincoln's assassination?
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ronald: he was general in chief. he was very deferential to civilian leadership. he wanted and tried to work with andy johnson. pretty quickly, he discovered he would not. he just as quickly discovered that ulysses s. grant was going to be the republican party candidate to replace him. in 1868. and so grant, who was , inolitical by definition 1864 when lincoln suffered a string of unpopularity, he said that he supports lincoln. he became very conversant with congress. servedime, when johnson as secretary of war, he was in .ohnson's cabinet so he continues to live an active life during those years of reconstruction. what was the up close and personal relationship between andrew johnson as president and
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u.s. grant? ronald: more fraught with difficulty. johnson tried to figure out a way to displace grant but it was also the popularity of grant. he tried to order him to mexico. he said, you have a love affair with mexico. i want you to be my special envoy. he said, no i won't do that. grant rarely criticize public leaders, but he broke with johnson. he could not speak anymore. he would attend cabinet meetings. he would give his report to the war department but then he would excuse himself after that. he was at would not participate in the rest of it. brian what was their big difference?
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-- brian: what was their big differences? ronald: the congressmen were putting in the 14th and 15th amendments. johnson did that recognizes and wanted to receipt all of the former confederate states. often, the delegates would be confederate generals. grant saw that this was a way of destroying everything that had been fought for for four years. brian: why did andrew johnson do that and did he have his eyes on his second term? ronald: he was the only southern senator the state within the union. the truth came out that he really wasn't this union person that he was a southerner. he led from that point of view. he felt that the south have been unfairly maligned. he wanted to bring them back into the story. there was underlying racism that was part of his policies. he was not for what the freedom
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bureau.man's not for voting rights of african-americans. freedman's was the bureau? ronald: well grant started receiving reports of how african-americans were treated. all of the soldiers who were listed in the civil war at the beginning of 1861, their terms were running out. for member, african-americans were listing is civil war. when the army was downsized, 36% of the union army was african-american. 36%. these african-american soldiers, 90% of who were from the south. they were now patrolling the streets of nashville and new orleans and atlanta. the conflict there was just inevitable. brian: they talk in history about the drinking of both andrew johnson and u.s. grant.
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how much impact did the drinking have on either one? ronald: i know the humorous story that when abraham lincoln was inaugurated for a second time, it andrew johnson had been ill with and came up from nashville and stated himself. -- steadied himself with a glass of whiskey. as he got to walking over to the calvary, he had a second one. then he had a third glass of whiskey. times, the vice president also gave an inaugural address. people leaned over the portico and said, don't let andy johnson speak. i think the story of grant is much more complicated. we have people who swore that he had done a lot of drinking. people who swear that he did not. he probably drank when he was away from julia.
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on the pacific coast. when he was pulling into a depression. i do not believe he was a drunkard, alcoholic. i think the drinking disappeared when he became president. this is part of a younger person's life. the drinking was a deal that he had to deal with. brian: how much of the grant papers did you read? ronald: i think i read every page. brian: did you read it in print or online? ronald: i had to highlight them. i have to have them in my hand. the most remarkable part, things do they are by microfilm. julia saved everyone of his letters. in those letters, we discover a grant who was willing and able to express his feelings. in a personal relationship with her that he was never able to do in public. i found that through those letters, there was an insight into the inner ulysses s. grant that you don't find in the
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public correspondence or certainly the public speeches. those did you learn from letters about what motivated him during those years? ronald: this sense of self- abasement. he was not after some position. he was almost surprised at his own ability. in the public letters, he always gave credit to his troops. he did not take credit for himself. he had a great love not simply for julia but for his family. what surprised me again given his west point record was he really was for the education of his children. he really wanted to move to princeton. he could not find the right house there. he wanted his children to study german. he wanted his children to study french. he really was pursuant of their education. the three boys all went to find
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schools. fine schools. sometimes nelly was put down as someone who wasn't as educated. she was also tutored though. julia was quite educated for her time. brian: where did he reside in the world? ronald: we reside near pasadena in california. i have an office at the marvelous huntington library in san marino which has the word gratis lincoln collection, a wonderful civil war collection. my teacher and friend jim mcpherson has spent four years of his life at the huntington library. you may not think southern california would have all of these resources but mr. huntington, along with j.p. morgan was one of two great collectors in the early 20th century. they were five great lincoln collectors. into 1914, huntington bought one of the big five. then he bought a second of the big five.
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then he bought the second five. that is where the huntington's were such a marvelous place to do what i am doing. brian: how did you end up at the hudson library? ronald: in my own family journey and intellectual journey, one day a 1993, they put on the largest lincoln exhibit ever put on. i was not a lincoln scholar. i sat in the back row. nobody invited me. i was teaching at ucla. i had a choice of offering a seminar. i will bring my students 35 minutes to the huntington. find someone, it not to me, to give them a lecture on lincoln. we all started reading lincoln together. i came across the second one. i said my goodness. i know something about the gettysburg address but this is a document i don't know about. i tried to find a book about it. there were none.
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so, i thought i will write the book. [chuckling] brian: ucla? a phd? one of the words i see a lot is theological. explain that. ronald: i am also a graduate of the princeton theological seminary. my belief in writing biography is that there is a presence of story.nce of the faith that is so important. it certainly was for lincoln. his second inaugural address, he mentions god 14 times, quotes the bible 13 times. invokes prayer three times. he uses a lot of religious language. he said there is something for a more profound going on there than that. here in washington, the new york avenue presbyterian church, the pastor became i think his kind of spiritual mentor. he preached the sermon at the death of of willie. february 1862.
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and abraham lincoln asked for a copy of that sermon. there have been no mention of a faith story. when grant did move to galena, a young 27-year-old pastor arrived at the same time. his name was john vincent. he would become 30 years later the founder of the famous chautauqua that we know in new york state. he became i think a spiritual mentor again. at some he spoke for him at point, galena. they corresponded. so we have got a methodist story here. grant's parents were methodist. julia's parents were methodist. the first national church in washington was not the national cathedral. they methodists were the largest protestant subsector. they dedicated it four days before grant was inaugurated as president.
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grant was a trustee. so, that was the story that has not been told. brian: with a theological degree, does that make you a minister? ronald: i'm a presbyterian minister, yes. i have been a pastor. brian: when i was at southern illinois university a couple of years ago, we were at the lincoln-douglas debates. i was up in what was a very unromantic looking area. i asked him why we don't have this on record. but i asked him, is there anything about the u.s. grant that we did not like? he walked over to the papers and i don't remember which volume and he opened it up and he said -- there. it was his anti-semitism. i want you to put it in context. i went to run -- i have some video of a gentleman and jonathan tsonga talking about this. i will get you to put this in context. [video clip] >> grant pause order was the
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most notorious of official act of anti-semitism in american history. it was the only time that jews as a class had been expelled from anywhere in the united states. [end video clip] brian: can you explain? ronald: yes, he has this wonderful book where it was about when grant expelled the jews. what was taking place was that grant was very excited and angry about the fact that washington was allowing trading to take place in the very same area that union forces were trying to shut down the confederacy. and, this trading, grant believed was really aiding the confederacy because it was giving them supplies. he along with many others believed the jews were the
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leading traders. so he offered what juliet later called and of noxious order. -- what juliet later called "that of noxious order." ordering jews expelled from his lines. when this order came forward and abraham lincoln saw this order, it was immediately rescinded. there are another two stories behind this. there is another story, grant was also very upset that his father was now in the employee of a firm in cincinnati and had come south to participate in this kind of trading. he was very angry with his father for doing this also. but went jonathan sarnoff tells if you read the rest of his book is the fact that to grant learned from this. grant became incredibly repented of what he had done.
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tells a story that needs to be heard. grant, more than any other person appointed jewish people to significant places in his administration. he attended the installation of the first jewish synagogue in washington. he reached out and jews became very appreciative of grant's efforts on their behalf as president of the united states. what he did was terrible. he learned from it. it changed his future dealings with jews. brian: you know, your book is over 800 pages. your notes are a hundred pages of notes. it covers everything. this is the page 426. i just want you to embellish this. grant's personal finances changed. his chief of staff at chattanooga spearheaded an effort to raise money for the celebrated general in chief. he said he was asked everywhere how much was general grant's pay? his standard reply was, not enough to support the position he holds at all. butterfield bestowed a check for $105,000 for grant.
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was he a general linear armie? -- general in the army? ronald: this was after the civil war. this was during reconstruction. brian: why would he take money like this in a position from the outsiders? ronald: this was not unusual. they did this for sherman. i think grant should have been far more aware that there is no free lunch. once he began to take money from we know this issue today, he is very beholden to them. he received a home in philadelphia. he received a home in washington, he received a home in galena. this is part of what he did. he hankered after something that had never been a part of his life before. some money to support himself. has a staff you could never imagine. he became cozy with business leaders. brian: another story, i am jumping around.
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on page 483. also on september 22, ulysses and julia returned to the white house after a summer's absence. julia inspected the summer work done by the carpenters, craftsmen, and painters. ulysses asked after about the new paintings in stalled throughout the house. what is the story there? ronald: the story there is part of the gold panic. there is an effort to corner the market on wall street. grant's sister has married a person who is sort of a part of this effort and so, without him fully realizing it, they are trying to draw him into this web. they are trying to learn from him what is going to be the government's policy toward money. suddenly, these things show up and grant is immediately suspicious, boxes them all up and sends them back. brian: where do they come from? ronald: they came from whoof these perpetrators
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were trying to ingratiate themselves to grant. brian: why were they going all up on the white house walls? ronald: the staff put them all up on the assumption that they were ordered maybe by julia. brian: chapter 31 starts off this way. mark twain used the parity of the presbyterian westminster catechism to attack the worship of money as a corrupting influence. ronald: yes, mark twain wrote this book, "the gilded age." it is associated with speculation and money and the scandals of his second administration. it is often a part of the story. we know that when people come to washington, sometimes power can corrupt. and, grant brought people into his administration who had been loyal, able people in the civil war and could not quite believe or understand how power began to corrupt them.
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and so when other people begin to make charges against them, often grant would be defending them when they should not have been defended. they became part of this gilded age in this rush to earn money. brian: but if he was taking money from outsiders at the time, wouldn't he have been damaged in some way as far as his clearer view of what money can corrupt? ronald: he was never implicated in any of the scandals. you have a clear view, he never should have taken any money. you are drawing a connection there. he probably should not have taken that money. nobody ever accused him. what they accused him about was not being awake and aware. not being astute enough to know this was happening around him. he did not recognize when it took place. brian: what happened between mark twain and ulysses s. grant
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before it was all over? ronald: what happened was rutherford b. hayes came to a net. he set off what would be a private tour. he loved traveling to new places. travel was education to him. he arrived in liverpool, england, and to his great surprise, he was treated as an american hero. he thought it would only be in england, scotland and europe. money was provided through a good investment from his son and then he spent 28 months traveling the entire world. he came back, did a variety of business ventures. ulysses but junior, went into a business venture on wall street. ulysses senior put all this money into this wall street firm. then everything collapsed.
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he walked home to julia and they had $330 between them. at that point, the century magazine had approached him to write his memoirs. dwight eisenhower, there was one written. grant did not like memoirs because they were lifting oneself up. settling scores. but now he needed money so he agreed to write his memoirs. century magazine wanted him to write them and offered him $10,000. he was about to sign the dotted line when mark twain heard this. mark twain rushed over to grant's home. he was very approving and appreciative of grant. in his own titular language, he said $10,000, that is what you pay a comanche indian to write his memoir. i will write your memoir. he persuaded grant, it was very difficult. it was difficult to step away from the contract but grant was a loyal person. mark twain said, i will sell 300,000 copies of your memoirs. almost at that moment, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. what i call the final campaign
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was his race against death. as he writes these memoirs to earn money for julia. there was no presidential pension. not until harry s truman. he completes the memoirs. three days before he dies. it is an amazing story. twain publishes them. he offers 70% of the proceeds. not the standard 10% royalties. the memoirs, never out-of-print would earn $450,000 for julia of 19th century money. and they are the classic american memoir. just remarkable. brian: why is it that so many people praise that as the best memoir ever of a public official? ronald: i often say lincoln disappeared in his second inaugural in the gettysburg address. there is no sort of egocentrism in his memoir. there is a wonderful power of
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lightning. immediacy. grant pushes this right into the story. maybe he would win. he misses the idea of writing. he eschews adjectives. he got many personal reminiscences from grant. these became part of the memoir. he elicits from grant all sorts of personal reminiscences. robert e. lee, abraham lincoln. this becomes part of the memoir. grant gave his own thumbnail sketches of why abraham lincoln, in his own words, is the greatest figure of this era. it is memorable to read this. it is very clear spare english language. he liked the sachsen language. sturdy one-syllable words. grant rights in the same way. he likes the saxon language. brian: from the time he started writing until the end, how long did it take him? ronald: 13-16 months.
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the word was out that he was dead before the morning came. mark twain wrote in his journal, he said the whole nation waster -- is waiting to hear whether grant is alive or dead. and if grant is to die, in every community across this nation there will be bells ringing every 30 seconds. 63 bells. that was the stature of grant that was held by the entire country. he soldiered on. he went to mount mcgregor. he tried to get away from the heat and humidity of new york. he was going to finish this memoir. it is an amazing story. the doctors believe that he only lived as long as he did because knew he had to complete the memoirs. brian: you say in the book that there is a new number, 750,000. is that dead?
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ronald: yes, that is dead. what happened was a demographer about seven years ago now began analyzing the census data from 1860-1870. he discovered these young men who were no longer alive in 1870. the figure is more like 750,000 instead of the traditional 620,000. that we had not calculated the casualties correctly. this is dead. brian: south and north, what was the breakdown? ronald: the south is much more difficult to calibrate because the records are not nearly as clear. i am probably going to miss state it if i say it so i don't want to make the calculation. brian: you know the number of soldiers. ronald: almost twice as many as
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the north, the south. and about 180,000 african-americans. brian: why did he succeed in the civil war? ronald: if you think about it, no one had ever led an army of more than 14,000. which winfield scott led to in the war with mexico. so, you might have graduated first in your quest at west point but that did not mean you could manage an army of 150 or 250,000 men. grant had the ability to keep fighting. what lincoln called pertinacity. to keep fighting. what lee did was he shifted his interior lines. when he had a force attacking him, he would move over to fight that force. a force came over here, he moved over to write that force. usually the fighting would cease and desist after two or three days. people would rest and refit and re-do the battle. there was no resting and refitting for grant. he kept the forces going. also, he discovered that the forces had not bought in
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coordination. theater, he had five different armies. he said these armies must attack in a coordinated way. if we attack here, there is no coordination. that gives the troops the ability to withstand our attacks. so his masterful ability to fight in a coordinated way. however he gave his chief , generals the ability to manage their own theaters of operation. he was not a micromanager. he trusted them and gave them the confidence to move forward. the difficult relationship with george meade who would been the commander at gettysburg, the potomac, he was sure that grant would remove him. grant said, i am not moving you. i'm placing my confidence in you. that gave him the freedom in the final months of the campaign for planning. brian: when in your life to do decide to become a writer?
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ronald: i was a high school journalist. i never had the time to write full-time. so i never could see myself having this possibility. brian: the theological degree, when did that start for you? the idea. ronald: pretty early. ucla toirectly from princeton theological seminary. i always weighed the difference between being a teacher and a pastor. i grew up in california, born in minneapolis and moved to california at age four. brian: were there any other ministers in your family? ronald: no. none. brian: and through the years, have you changed your mind at all about religion? ronald: i want to be the kind of person who is grateful for my past, what i've experienced. i am not there necessarily, in the past. i have learned that experience opens doors you can never imagine when you're young. in one sense i have a basic, central belief in term of the christian faith. and yet the world around us has changed rapidly and we need to
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be willing and able to change with it and to see new possibilities, new challenges. probably the whole component of social justice i think was not part of my reality as a youngster but i think the whole civil rights era, the martin luther king story challenged me to think about this in fresh ways. so i spent a lot of time writing about what is called the social gospel. did these social gospel, how did social christianity confront the issue of race. not just in the era of martin luther king but historically, in the decades before it. that is behind this book. how did ulysses s. grant confront the issue of racial injustice. that is why i find him such a compelling figure. brian: what mark would you give him? ronald: i would give him an a. a high score. you know, one day there were african-american leaders and the white house. he said i look forward to the day when you can ride on a
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railroad car. when you can eat in a restaurant. when you can do so along with every other person regardless of race. that day must come. it took 90 years for that day to come. grant was the last american president to hold those kinds of view. we think of barack obama as the first president elected with a nonwhite majority. ulysses s. grant was the first person elected with a nonwhite majority. he only won the popular vote in 1868 because 400,000 african-americans voted for him. by 1890, a few thousand were still able to vote in the south. this is the story of ulysses s. grant that needs to be told. that has not really been told. of a person who stood up against voter suppression of his day, that was the goal of the ku klux
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klan, to suppress the vote. he wanted to stop that and give african-americans the right to vote. brian: please tell people where you went. how many different places did you go to study grant? ronald: probably 20 or 25 places. brian: how long did that take you? a long time. i live in southern california. and so i am indebted to many national park historians. there are libraries. there are a lot of different documents in different places. they don't always align with geography. john hale vincent paz papers, the spiritual mentor, his papers are in dallas, texas. i don't think he had ever written a day in dallas texas. they were offered to southern methodist university and they said, we will take them. brian: how many of the 33 volumes are digitized? online for people to read them?
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ronald: all of them are digitized. the 33rd volume will be published by harvard university press. brian: why? ronald: well, this is to be a special volume. it is going to be a really annotated volume. i don't fully know the conversation. the hope is that this will become a really first-class volume. i have seen it but not in the final stages. my wonderful executive editor at ulysses s. grant mississippi state was helpful. brian: i wanted to ask you about this in the acknowledgment. you talked about his remarkable horsemanship. you talked of the many conversations you you had with the wranglers where you road. what is that about? [laughter] ronald: i didn't realize that our physical education classes were horseback riding.
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by monty roberts, the famous whisperer. so i had ridden at the ranch in wyoming. near ridden at the lazy q south of tucson. and i ask these people about grant and horseback riding that is not our culture. when people of the 19th century understood grant is a horse whisperer, one who gentles horses, one who could gentle horses is a gentle person. i wanted to lift up his story as a horseman because is that a lot about his character. brian: of the places you went, columbia river, vicksburg, shiloh, all of these places. people who are grant followers and don't travel much, give them one place to go? ronald: one of the most fascinating places was
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vicksburg. the topography is great. one thing i wish they had not done is they allow these trees to grow up. there were no trees at that time. they had this fire zone. this was the most complicated battle. it took the longest to win. it was very important because of the freedom of access. i think with lots of difficulties, this was a masterstroke. you asked about lincoln and grant. when did lincoln meet grant? well, lincoln had not met grant yet. he wrote grant a letter after he won the battle of gettysburg. he said, i said that when you decide to do this, i could not agree last. -- i could not agree less. he ended the letter by saying, general grant, i was wrong and you are right. brian: the book is called "american ulysses: a life of ulysses s. grant"
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and our guest has been ronald c. white. based at the huntington library in pasadena. thank you very much. ronald: thank you brian. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] ♪ announcer: for free transcripts, or to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q&a.org. q&a is also available as a c-span podcast. ♪ announcer: if you liked this q&a program, here's some others you might enjoy. james robertson on his
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book "after the civil war." there is also walter star who writes about the relationship between abraham lincoln and secretary of state william seward. also, john quincy adams, american visionary. you can find these interviews online at c-span.org. announcer: here on c-span, washington journal is next. campaign managers on the 2016 election results at a forum courtesy of cnn. .t noon, the house gavels in legislative business at 2:00. on today's washington journal, the future of the house democratic caucus after recent democratic elections. then a look at efforts to isis inspirednd
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attacks in the u.s. with mark ginsberg who is a former mideast jimmyr to president carter. later, liz farmer talks about federal grant money being used by large ♪ trump wentdent-elect to nominate armor presidential candidate, dr. ben carson as the head of housing and urban development. dr. carson was his choice to advance his agenda for urban renewal and the inner-city. this is the washington journal for december 5. we will talk more on that later. the decision yesterday concerning an oil pipeline. the obama administration has put on hold a project in north dakota. that is known as the dakota protest --

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